The Fall of Hyperion: Critical Analysis & Appreciation

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      Introduction: Keats abandoned Hyperion, but only with the aim of rewriting it along a new plan. He had realized that the Miltonic mode was no longer for him—“I wish to give myself up to other sensations”. One of these sensations was the grave and disciplined clarity of Dante’s verse and it is echoed in the new version of his poem—The Fall of Hyperion, sub-titled. “A Dream”.

Interpretation And Critical Appreciation & Analysis

      Comparison and contrast between the two Hyperions: Hyperion is decidedly “Miltonic” and “Spenserian”, in its effect; The Fall of Hyperion keeps clear of Spenserian - Miltonic mode. More than anything else, however, the interest of the The Fall of Hyperion lies in the totally new material that it introduces, and the vision of Moneta. Keats had realized that his conflict about an individual’s destiny could no longer be resolved in the character of Apollo. Keats deliberately reduces the epic grandeur of Hyperion in the new version. Saturn, for example, is cut down to the size of “some old man of the earth /Bewailing earthly loss”. To recast the epic as a vision in which he himself appeared as the poet witnessing the fall of the Titans—this would give scope both to his own bitter meditations and to Apollo’s struggle for godhead, though the latter was not accomplished as the poem was left incomplete.

      Influence of Dante: the allegorical significance of the poem. The Fall of Hyperion outlines Keats’s attempt to find a middle way between the Miltonic, mode and the “egotistical sublime” of. Wordsworth. Dante’s influence is obvious in Keats’s choice of method in the poem. Keats, of course, could not in sincerity take up a Christian theme; nor could he invent a mythology out of the blue. Keats thus takes the most ancient European mythology with all its beauty, mystery and spiritual aspect, and attempts to remake it in his own terms. Like Dante Keats enters the poem, and like Dante, he enters the poem to talk about poetry. Poetry meant to Keats what Christianity did to paint. The earlier Hyperion fragment only comes into the poem when Keats has no more to say about poetry. In The Fall of Hyperion, there is a resemblance between the poet witnessing the vision and Dante who wandered through the kingdoms of the the dead.

      Keats seems to be writing a deliberate allegory of his inner life. The dreamer’s progress from the garden into the temple responds to the poet’s growth from unreflective delight in all the beauty of the world to his first awareness of the misery which life holds for the sensitive man—the development which Keats previsioned in Sleep and Poetry and Endymion and underwent in reality with his brother Tom’s last illness. “What the dreamer sees in the temple of Saturn are, literary, the relics of the Titans but in their vastness and antiquity they suggest the whole sum of human experience environing his span of years. His journey through this temple of consciousness is also symbolic; for he moves not from west to east, as through a Christian cathedral, but from east to west, in the direction of earthly time itself”, as Aileen Ward observes.

      Poetry no escapes from reality: The draught drunk by Keats in his dream offers no escape from reality. The vision is not opposed to life, nor more enticing than life. Keats is not escaping from anything; instead, his responsibilities as a poet compel him into immediate contact with a more terrible and more truthful reality than we encounter in the superficial habits of our lives. The draught brings no intoxication; the language deliberately checks any such possibility by its bare vocabulary.

No Asian poppy nor elixir fine
Of the soon-fading jealous Caliphate;
Could so have rapt unwilling life away.

      He is “Unwilling” to go, and the level, cool tone and pace of the lines guide us towards understanding the serious, uninflated expectations we are to bring to the poem. With the vision of Moneta’s face and her words, suffering and death are given their accepted place in a comprehensive scheme of values - It is the poet who has the toughness to build and see these values—if he dares. Moneta asks him: is he a poet, or just a dreamer? She faces him with questions which demand of Keats the profound courage to reply. There are no possible evasions. The poet is to don the power of Moneta—the power to present suffering so that ordinary human beings feel only wonder. This is the function of art as Keats saw it, and as he said in one of his letters to George and Thomas Keats:

      In the lines in which we see Moneta’s face, “all disagreeables evaporate” because of the intensity. The suffering figure symbolizes the central figure of all tragedies who in some sense bears and understands all human suffering because he or she has suffered so much. This is true of Oedipus and Lear, as it is true of Moneta.

      Significance of Moneta: Through the paradoxical associations brought up by the words describing Moneta’s face, Keats conveys a sense of her mystery, where desolate aloofness mingles with a benign compassion. She is serene in her sad authority and also profoundly disquieting. She is both tender and frightening. Moneta, indeed, embodies a kind of “permanence” less comforting than the view presented by the Autumn ode--the permanence of suffering.

      “Tragic” effect of the poem: The, Fall of Hyperion is not depressing but tragic in its effect. The poem reaches the profound impersonality of tragedy. The whole progress of the poem, from its opening in the lush gardens, through the desperate race with the burning leaves, to the encounter with Moneta culminating in the vision of her face, is like a miniature allegory of the artist’s attainment of that impersonality. From initial comfort and well-being, he passes through acute personal anguish to deep self-questioning, symbolized by the dialogue with Moneta concerning his identity, and finally reaches that sense of “impersonal” sorrow Embodied in Moneta’s face—impersonal because it transcends the individual sufferer. And in the confrontation of this impersonal sorrow there is a strange serenity, of which the symbol is the “benignant light” of Moneta’s eyes.

      Taut, bare but intense style: The effect of The Fall of Hyperion is greatly due to Keat’s style in the poem. An example of the new tense and muscular verse is to be found in the very opening: “Fanatics have their dreams The struggle to overcome a numb paralysis and meet; the challenge to reach the altar steps is described with nightmare intensity, as Fred Inglis comments. No doubt Keats’s private agonies give it that force, but the point is rather that he makes universally relevant his own suffering, so that the anxiety and urgency are felt personally by any and every reader. Keats writes; here without strain or exaggeration.

      The grim, uncompromising lines of Moneta’s speech—“None can usurp this height”—have a brutal honesty and are without ambiguity. These lines are ‘‘great poetry”—with what T.S. Eliot called ‘‘the unpleasantness of great poetry”. The effect is bare and unfaltering. There is no self-pity, no comment on the poet’s own feelings. The statements are left to do their work, and the result is in the highest sense tragic. Keats shows in these passages that poetry can state, and exclude action, and still be a success. The lines on Moneta’s face exemplify blank verse at its best—even, level and uninterrupted. The tone is gravely meditative and sober, but it never palls.

      Why abandon this poem too? Keats did not complete The Fall of Hyperion just as he did not complete the earlier version His abandonment of the ambitious venture shows his courage as an artist. He recognized that the poem had nowhere to go after the vision of Moneta’s face. As Inglis points out, Moneta has little connection with the trivial, all-too-human gods of Saturn’s following. Hyperion himself could scarcely match her. And the intrigues of the gods would look absurd beside the mighty induction to the poem. There was no choice but to abandon the work The Fall of Hyperion is great poetry but different from Hyperion arid the effect to combine them was doomed to failure.

      Conclusion: The Fall of Hyperion shows Keats’s uneasy frame of mind at the time of its composition. His disillusionment with poetry expressed in a letter finds an expression in his conversation with Moneta. Like Dante who began his spiritual journey, aware of how far he had fallen from the good, Keats started his poem with a devastating indictment of his own previous achievement in poetry as well as of the selfish passivity and indulgence in “imaginary woes” which his life as a poet had encouraged. But The, Fall of Hyperion is great poetry the work of a creative maker, not a talented copyist; besides this later fragment, Hyperion, great in its place, appears to be a brilliant artistic exercise, as M.R. Ridley observes. In The Fall of Hyperion Keats reached a higher point than he had ever reached in his poetry, ‘‘even though he stumbled as he climbed, and fell before the top was reached”, as Ridley picturesquely puts it. The Fall of Hyperion indicates the road he wished to travel.

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